Globalization, Emerging Technologies & Future Industrial Relations: Will Doomsday Be Revisited?

AuthorHantal, Bhimasen


The industrial climate has undergone tremendous change over the last 30 years. As a sequel to the structural adjustment programs of the globalization process many national governments were required to reformulate the industrial laws and other statutory requirements as part of ease of doing business. It is supplemented with two more developments over this period. First is about reducing the strength and role of unions in terms of their collective bargaining capacity. Second relates to the advent of next generation modern technologies; there is decline in importance of industrial manpower in production and related establishments. These advanced technologies are also required for catering to the mass production of quality products of internationally acceptable standards to withstand the competition and challenges posed by the process of globalization. Many industries have started substituting robots and Artificial Intelligences (AIs) for accuracy, safety and precision of productivity and quality. The purpose of this article is to foresee the challenges of future industrial relations and conflict resolution if such trends continues unabated.

Methodology of Study

The methodology for purpose of this study has been a multi-dimensional one, to systematically investigate and organize the trends of advancements of robots and artificial intelligence and their effect on the modern industrial set up. Rather than resorting to the descriptive or normative strategies, an explorative strategy has been adopted aimed at the study of multiple futures and exploration of possible developments. It will also lay the foundation of knowledge on the basis of which various stages and types of changes and developments that are likely to shape up in the future can be explored. This paper, though primarily focused on the industrial relations and conflicts in future industrial establishments, some ancillary and peripheral areas related to the subject, has also been analyzed.

Modern Industrial Organization

Competition in the modern industrial organization has indeed led into three major challenging consequences:

i. Innovation and development of advanced technology by the employers all over the world through huge investment in research and development activities.

ii. Supplementing the technology with the existing or new trained manpower, i.e. CNC Machine, Computer, etc.

iii. Substituting the existing manpower with Robots and AIs, not just in hazardous industries but even in conventional fields like in army, retail markets, IT & communication industries and in many others.

The effect of these changes leads into a few other consequences which require special attention:

a. Growing unemployment among job aspirants and underemployment

This subscribes to the Marxian theory of class struggle. In this context, the relevant parts of a global report are reproduced here (UNO, 2019: 1-4; International Labor Organization, 2019).

Globally, 21. 2 per cent of young people were not in employment, education or training (NEET) in 2018, that is over one-fifth of all young individuals worldwide had neither acquired the skills through education nor the work experience. Progress during the past ten years has been highly negligible as in 2008 the NEET rate was 22 per cent that indicate the extremely negative future employment prospects of the youth including the risk of economic and social exclusion, which thus, apart from having the longterm implications for the income prospects of the affected individuals, can also act as an obstacle to sustainable economic growth of nations and world.

b. Breathtaking competition leading into amalgamation, absorption, mass scale production spearheaded by multinational corporations is taking place under the aegis of globalization

Some of the biggest mergers and acquisition of recent times are as mentioned below: ( blog/business/5-biggest-mergers-of-alltime).

i. Vodafone and Mannesmann

ii. America Online and Time Warner

iii. Pfizer and Warner-Lambert

iv. AT&T and BellSouth

v. Exxon and Mobil

c. Relaxing of the regulatory standards and mechanisms related to industrial and labor laws

The main effects of GATT/WTO compliance under globalization have been the convergence towards the fewer government regulations as have been recorded in the countries (except perhaps in some Southern European countries) since the enterprises enjoy increased possibilities of stretching normal working time without having to pay overtime. While the scope for flexible contract arrangements has been broadened, the employment protection regulations have become less stringent thereby the incidence of minimum wages has been reduced through changes in indexation clauses. Though the labor standards were used to be determined by the collective bargaining or through the individual contracts, the administrative regulations of the respective governments in terms of the guidelines of WTO, by and large, have superseded such practices. On the other hand, the governments have made some effort to curb the social protection expenditures ( emp/2409984.pdf).

d. Inclusion of advanced technologies not just to supplement or assist the works of manpower but also to substitute for it.

Some of the examples of recent pasts are ( photos/30-companies-already-replacinghumans-with-robots/ss-BBy8O3h#image=2): not too long ago we might have dismissed the idea of a robot snatching the job of human beings but it is no more a science fiction but the factual reality as the companies have now resorted to increased utilization of services of the automaton as the replacements to the existing manpower to such an extent that the experts have started predicting that the machines will take over the majority of roles within the next 30 years. Some illustrations of some of the major firms that have already started replacing their workforce with robots are:

i. Amazon

ii. DHL

iii. CIG

iv. Uber

v. Tesla

vi. Capita

Besides, there are many firms like Best Buy, Target, Lowe, Macy, etc., which are geared for automation with an eye for replacing their existing manpower with the robots, some with the artificial intelligence-powered virtual robot.

Existing Industrial Relations & Conflict Resolution

There are several kinds of relationships that arise in and out of the...

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